Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day, everyone! 139 years since Confederation and we’re still going strong. In fact, as more people from more cultures around the world have come here over the years to live side by side and make this place their home, the great buffet of Canadian society (as opposed to the bland melting pot culture of our neighbours to the south) has become more complex and delicious. Whether we chomp on burgers on the patio at sunset, partake of smoked salmon at a potlatch, quaff beer and scarf down bratwurst at Octoberfest, savour samosas and sweets on South Main Street, dive into some chicken with hoisin and a box of dragon’s beard candy at the Richmond Public Night Market, slurp on buttered corn fresh from the field, tuck into some jerk at Caribana, nosh on smoked meat in Montreal, hunker over a kettle of lobster and clams on a beach along the Bay of Fundy, or indulge in a box of Laura Secord’s finest, we’re all serving up a society our children can be proud of. Is that to say that things here in the Great White North are perfect? No. Far from it. But at least we can agree to engage in that fundamental aspect of Canadian culture that unites us all, regardless of background: debate, without resorting to blowing each other up.
A-propos, but entirely by coincidence, I find myself reading a new anthology of Canadian speculative fiction this long weekend: “Mythspring – From the Lyrics & Legends of Canada”, edited by Julie E. Czerneda and Genevieve Kierans. It’s something of a patriotic duty to buy a copy of these anthologies as they crop up once in a blue moon and support the growing Canadian speculative fiction establishment. But I’ve never really seen it as a duty since most of the fare within the pages of books like this one, or the periodic “Tesseracts” series, is really good. It’s not hard to find talented Canucks like Minister Faust, Corey Doctorow, Robert J. Sawyer, Nalo Hopkinson, Jack Whyte or dozens of others featured prominently on the shelves of your local bookstore. As many have remarked, Canada is the new frontier of speculative fiction.
As for “Mythspring”, so far, I’ve quite enjoyed submissions like Kierans’ own “Mirror, Mirror”, “All the Cool Monsters at Once” by James Alan Gardner, “Walking with Wolves” by Alison Baird and “This Is the Ice Age” by Claude Lalumiere. What a wonderful display of home-grown talent.
I even have to give a grudging nod of respect to Lorne Kates for his attempt to reinvigorate the tired, old plot device of following a protagonist through a story only to discover at the end that he’s a ghost in “Over Lunar White”.
Of course, not every tale was a hit. Lynda Williams’ “The Harpy” was predictable and Daniel Archambault needed an editor to tell him to leave well enough alone and cut two unnecessary pages off of the end of “The Ghost of Watson’s Mill Is Online”. I’ve also got a bit of a problem with Kierans being a co-editor and having not one, but two of her own stories in the collection. No matter how good they are, that’s an editorial abuse of power. Don’t tell me there weren’t good submissions by other authors, or more authors who could have been approached for submissions in order to fill a few extra pages. If they couldn’t dig anyone up on their own, the editors could’ve put in a call to On Spec or Neo Opsis or any of the other SF magazines for suggestions or contacts. I also wonder why Czerneda and Kierans couldn’t settle on either myths or songs as the theme. There are so many of both in this country, and so many good Canadian authors who could breathe new life into them, that the editors didn’t have to have both themes in one volume.
That being said, “Mythspring” is an anthology worth adding to your collection, especially during this holiday.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to head off to the barbeque and find out what kind of celebration is in the works.
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